I read Jim Prevor’s analysis of the national generic promotion board debate in his recent edition of the Pundit. It was a fair treatment of the issue, though it was overlong and leaning a little too much toward (surprise!) self congratulatory back-patting.
Clearly, the debate over the national generic promotion board is over for the foreseeable future. Although I was a proponent of the board and the modest $30 million investment in generic promotion, I respect the process and the arguments against the board. Talking with Rick Antle the other day, I commented that the concept “was not meant to be” this time.
“I don’t think it was meant to be this time and I don’t think it (will be) meant to be next time,” he said. “You’ve got too many diverse groups all fighting for the same stomach share with significantly different margins,” Rick said.
“How can the avocado guys advertise and have as many promotions as they do if they didn’t have a bigger margin than the lettuce business, where there is no promotions?” Rick commented.
Rick and other industry leaders are looking at what the government could provide to the industry’s efforts.
“You look at how many billions of dollars are in the farm bill, subsidizing and propping up our whole corn diet and you got to wonder, what good is that? Look at obesity and everything else.”
Antle said the government has the opportunity to promote health and wellness – pharmaceuticals spelled with an “f” – and they turn a blind eye to the industry.
“Threaten to take away a dollar from the corn and milk subsidies and you’ve got a riot,” he said. Antle said he appreciates the fruit and vegetable gains in the WIC program and other feeding programs, but said it doesn’t nearly equal the support given to program crops.
Antle raised the issue of the Canadian fruit and vegetable promotion effort in relation to the effectiveness of the Produce for Better Health Foundation campaign. “What is it that’s going on in Canada?” he asked. How are they able to leverage what little dollars they collect?”
“It seems like the amount of support for the Canadian effort – there is a lot to be learned, I think.”
Putting aside the issue of Canadian generic promotion (and the U.S. industry’s long running envy of Canada’s inexplicable higher reported produce consumption levels), what is to be learned from the process?
One thing we learned is that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Having the integrity of PBH challenged because of their efforts to start a conversation about the national promotion board was a low blow. And is it any wonder that industry leaders hesitated to voice their support for the concept when we remember words by the Pundit about Mike O’Brien?
"We should start out by saying that Mike O’Brien is an honest and good man who has long toiled to advance the industry."